Local scene
Popular vocalist Vernon Perera

By Kalinga Weerakkody
Popular vocalist Vernon Perera recently put out his CD and cassettes with 16 songs (all time hits) such as ‘Ru Siriya Ege’, ‘Ran Thallak’, ‘Manamaliye’, ‘Sayuren Eha‘ (Beyond the sea), ‘Bindunath Bandi Pema’ (Lost love) and ‘Kadupul malak’.

The musical accompaniment is by Ernie Peiris and ‘Sahara’ and produced by ‘Lakna Company’ of Gamini Mendis and the compositions were named ‘Kaddupul Malak’. Songs done by the late Clarence Wijewardana and Stanley Peiris, Lal Thenabadu, Sarath de Alwis, Chandra Lal Fonseka and Rohana Weerasinghe, are included in it.
Vernon began his education at St. Lucia’s College, Kotahena and later went to Thurstan College for his higher studies.
Recalling his interest in music Vernon said that from his school days he listened to all types of songs.
After schooling and waiting for employment he followed the musical shows organised by the people in his area.
His favourites are the late H. R. Jothipala, Haroon Lantra, and many other singers popular in the past.

Vernon Perera
Vernon Perera

His first job was as a draftsman at Ananda Peiris Associates in Ceylinco House Fort.

His admiration for music was so great that during the lunch interval he used to visit the ‘Children’s Bookshop’ owned by Gerald Wickramasooriya that produced records under ‘Sooriya’ label and visited by artistes such as Wally Bastian and Clarence Wijewardana.

Producing a record those days was a big challenge a task achieved by a select of people among their Children’s Bookshop (Sooriya Records), Gemtone, Phillips Company, Lotus recording, Shans Records, Tharanga Record Studio, Ogi Studio, Sarasaviya, Bishops Palace under Rev. Fr. Joe Nethsinghe and Nelu studio.

Another turning point in his life was meeting veteran music director Lal Thenabadu in the late 60’s for whom he composed songs and gave him for melodies on his box guitar. Later music director the late Mike Gunasekara joined them.

His attempts to have his songs recorded failed at first but he persisted and achieved success.

Once, he composed a song for Desmond de Silva and took it to the pioneer of Sri Lanka’s cassette production Wijaya Ramanayake who asked why he couldn’t sing the song himself.

Of the six songs he composed, four were picked for recording.

Vernon once met Clarence and told him of the need to compose a song titled ‘Oba dake Gannata’ (To see you). The other three songs were ‘Ran Thallak Gela Bande’ (A necklace), music director Mike Gunasekara, ‘Wali Keliye’ and ‘Suranjani’ Music Director Lal Thenabadu.

Vernon mixed his voice to an EP (External Play) record that produced in 1974 under the Tharanga.

He later composed another four songs under the Gemtone label on the invitation of Wijayapala Hettiarachchi. He also sang for Silverline Records and Tec Records.

In the late seventies he sang for the seventh cassette released under the Tharanga label.

He has also did a play back singer for about five films.

He also sang duets with several popular female vocalists such as Indrani Perera, Lata Walpola, Sujatha Attanayaka, Angeline Gunathilaka, Mariaselle Goonathilaka and Neela Wickremasinghe. His duet with Indrani Perera ‘Samugena Yannemi mama oba thanikota’, (I am leaving you behind) still continues to be popular among listeners.

In addition Vernon is also a lyrics writer.

Other than writing lyrics for two ‘Visharadhas’, he has also written lyrics for many other artistes such as the late Mohideen Baig and H. R. Jothipala and also for Nihal Nelson.

Vernon had also introduced many artistes to the local music scene. Most of them have forgotten him except Saman de Silva.

Those days when new songs were created their tracks were not preserved nor was music composed for reward. As a result he doesn’t possess any such tracks.

But now the pattern has completely changed the music field is a money spinning business.

He was thankful to those who helped him in his musical career and mentioned the names of records and cassettes producers such as Wijaya Ramanayaka (Tharanga), Wijayapala Hettiarachchi (Gemtone), James Sirinivasan (Lotus). Music directors such as Lal Thenabadu, Clarence Wijewardnana, Stanley Peiris, Ernest Soyza and vocalists Nihal Nelson and Saman de Silva.

Describing the present music scene Vernon said that vocalists now adopt different styles. No one could predict the future of the vocalists, only the music loving people will decide as to who is popular, good or bad.

Certain vocalists have labelled themselves as Prabuddha (Classical), while others have been labelled as ‘Upprabuddha’ (not classical or 3rd class). He said no critic has the right to label artistes like that. The people must be the judges and jury of artistes .

Music is a common language and anyone thinks that way will be like a frog in the well or a fool.

Vernon blamed the state media especially the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation for not giving due recognition to vocalists such as the late H. R. Jothipala and Clarence Wijewardana.

He said those authorities ruined all their hopes when they were alive by not giving them the due recognition for their contributions which were extremely popular over three decades and still are.

He said that even now, the same atmosphere prevails under the media pundits.

The artistes loved by people are being given step motherly treatment while the pundits and vishradhas enjoy all the publicity and the ‘fat of the land’.

Despite all the ill-treatment artistes like the late H. R. Jothipala, Clarence Wijewardana and Milton Mallawarachchi will live in the hearts of the common music lover.

Vernon Perera’s wife is Malkanthi and they have two sons.

While wishing his numerous fans happy listening to his CD’s and cassettes he said that he is willing to entertain any comments from listeners and they could be sent to his home address No. 31/8 Samudrasanna Road , Mt. Lavinia.